|JERUSALEM THE GOLDEN.|
Urbs Sion Aurea.
|The Seven Great Hymns| of the Latin Church are:
Laus Patriae Coelestis, -- (Praise of the Heavenly Country). Veni, Sancte Spiritus, -- (Come, Holy Spirit)
Veni, Creator Spiritus, -- (Come, Creator Spirit)
Dies Irae, -- (The Day of Wrath)
Stabat Mater, -- (The Mother Stood By)
Mater Speciosa, -- (The Fair Mother.)
Vexilla Regis. -- (The Banner of the King.)
Chief of these is the first named, though that is but part of a religious poem of three thousand lines, which the author, Bernard of Cluny, named |De Contemptu Mundi| (Concerning Disdain of the World.)
Bernard was of English parentage, though born at Morlaix, a seaport town in the north of France. The exact date of his birth is unknown, though it was probably about A.D.1100. He is called Bernard of Cluny because he lived and wrote at that place, a French town on the Grone where he was abbot of a famous monastery, and also to distinguish him from Bernard of Clairvaux.
His great poem is rarely spoken of as a whole, but in three portions, as if each were a complete work. The first is the long exordium, exhausting the pessimistic title (contempt of the world), and passing on to the second, where begins the real |Laus Patriae Coelestis.| This being cut in two, making a third portion, has enriched the Christian world with two of its best hymns, |For Thee, O Dear, Dear Country,| and |Jerusalem the Golden.|
Bernard wrote the medieval or church Latin in its prime of literary refinement, and its accent is so obvious and its rhythm so musical that even one ignorant of the language could pronounce it, and catch its rhymes. The |Contemptu Mundi| begins with these two lines, in a hexameter impossible to copy in translation:
Hora novissima; tempora pessima sunt; Vigilemus!
Ecce minaciter imminet Arbiter, Ille Supremus!
'Tis the last hour; the times are at their worst;
Watch; lo the Judge Supreme stands threat'ning nigh!
Or, as Dr. Neale paraphrases and softens it, --
The World is very evil,
The times are waxing late,
Be sober and keep vigil,
The Judge is at the gate,
-- and, after the poet's long, dark diorama of the world's wicked condition, follows the |Praise of the Heavenly Fatherland,| when a tender glory dawns upon the scene till it breaks into sunrise with the vision of the Golden City. All that an opulent and devout imagination can picture of the beauty and bounty of heaven, and all that faith can construct from the glimpses in the Revelation of its glory and happiness is poured forth in the lavish poetry of the inspired monk of Cluny --
Urbs Sion aurea, patria lactea, cive decora,
Omne cor obruis, omnibus obstruis, et cor et ora.
Nescio, nescio quae jubilatio lux tibi qualis,
Quam socialia gaudia, gloria quam specialis.
Jerusalem, the golden;
With milk and honey blest;
Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and voice opprest.
I know not, O I know not
What joys await us there,
With radiancy of glory,
With bliss beyond compare.
They stand, those halls of Zion,
All jubilant with song,
And bright with many an angel;
And all the martyr throng.
The Prince is ever in them,
The daylight is serene;
The pastures of the blessed
Are decked in glorious sheen.
* * * * *
O sweet and blessed country,
The home of God's elect!
O sweet and blessed country,
That eager hearts expect!
Jesu, in mercy bring us
To that dear land of rest,
Who art, with God the Father,
And Spirit, ever blest.
[Footnote 47: In first editions, |conjubilant with song.|]
Dr. John Mason Neale, the translator, was obliged to condense Bernard's exuberant verse, and he has done so with unsurpassable grace and melody. He made his translation while |inhibited| from his priestly functions in the Church of England for his high ritualistic views and practice, and so poor that he wrote stories for children to earn his living. His poverty added to the wealth of Christendom.
The music of |Jerusalem the Golden| used in most churches is the composition of Alexander Ewing, a paymaster in the English army. He was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Jan.3d, 1830, and educated there at Marischal College. The tune bears his name, and this honor, and its general favor with the public, are so much testimony to its merit. It is a stately harmony in D major with sonorous and impressive chords. Ewing died in 1895.
|WHY SHOULD WE START AND FEAR TO DIE?|
Probably it is an embarrassment of riches and despair of space that have crowded this hymn -- perhaps the sweetest that Watts ever wrote -- out of some of our church singing-books. It is pleasant to find it in the new Methodist Hymnal, though with an indifferent tune.
Christians of today should surely sing the last two stanzas with the same exalted joy and hope that made them sacred to pious generations past and gone --
O if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul would stretch her wings in haste.
Fly fearless through death's iron gate,
Nor feel the terrors as she passed.
Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on His breast I lean my head
And breathe my life out sweetly there.
The plain-music of William Boyd's |Pentecost,| (with modulations in the tenor), creates a new accent for the familiar lines. Preferable in every sense are Bradbury's tender |Zephyr| or |Rest.|
No coming generation will ever feel the pious gladness of Amariah Hall's |All Saints New| in E flat major as it stirred the Christian choirs of seventy five years ago. Fitted to this heart-felt lyric of Watts, it opened with the words --
O if my Lord would come and meet,
in full harmony and four-four time, continuing to the end of the stanza. The melody, with its slurred syllables and beautiful modulations was almost blithe in its brightness, while the strong musical bass and the striking chords of the |counter,| chastened it and held the anthem to its due solemnity of tone and expression. Then the fugue took up --
Jesus can make a dying bed,
-- bass, treble and tenor adding voice after voice in the manner of the old |canon| song, and the full harmony again carried the words, with loving repetitions, to the final bar. The music closed with a minor concord that was strangely effective and sweet.
Amariah Hall was born in Raynham, Mass., April 28, 1785, and died there Feb.8, 1827. He |farmed it,| manufactured straw-bonnets, kept tavern and taught singing-school. Music was only an avocation with him, but he was an artist in his way, and among his compositions are found in some ancient Tune books his |Morning Glory,| |Canaan,| |Falmouth,| |Restoration,| |Massachusetts,| |Raynham,| |Crucifixion,| |Harmony,| |Devotion,| |Zion,| and |Hosanna.|
|All Saints New| was his masterpiece.
|WHEN I CAN READ MY TITLE CLEAR.|
No sacred song has been more profanely parodied by the thoughtless, or more travestied, (if we may use so strong a word), in popular religious airs, than this golden hymn which has made Isaac Watts a benefactor to every prisoner of hope. Not to mention the fancy figures and refrains of camp-meeting music, which have cheapened it, neither John Cole's |Annapolis| nor Arne's |Arlington| nor a dozen others that have borrowed these speaking lines, can wear out their association with |Auld lang Syne.| The hymn has permeated the tune, and, without forgetting its own words, the Scotch melody preforms both a social and religious mission. Some arrangements of it make it needlessly repetitious, but its pathos will always best vocalize the hymn, especially the first and last stanzas --
When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies
I'll bid farewell to every fear
And wipe my weeping eyes.
* * * * *
There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.
|VITAL SPARK OF HEAVENLY FLAME.|
This paraphrase, by Alexander Pope, of the Emperor Adrian's death-bed address to his soul --
Animula, vagula, blandula,
Hospes, comesque corporis,
-- transfers the poetry and constructs a hymnic theme.
An old hymn writer by the name of Flatman wrote a Pindaric, somewhat similar to |Adrian's Address,| as follows:
When on my sick-bed I languish,
Full of sorrow, full of anguish,
Fainting, gasping, trembling, crying,
Panting, groaning, speechless, dying;
Methinks I hear some gentle spirit say,
|Be not fearful, come away.|
Pope combined these two poems with the words of Divine inspiration, |O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?| and made a pagan philosopher's question the text for a triumphant Christian anthem of hope.
Vital spark of heavenly flame,
Quit, oh quit this mortal frame.
Trembling, hoping, ling'ring, flying,
Oh the pain, the bliss of dying!
Cease, fond nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.
Hark! they whisper: angels say,
|Sister spirit, come away!|
What is this absorbs me quite,
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirit, draws my breath,
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?
The world recedes: it disappears:
Heaven opens on my eyes; my ears
With sounds seraphic ring.
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O grave where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?
The old anthem, |The Dying Christian,| or |The Dying Christian to his Soul,| which first made this lyric familiar in America as a musical piece, will never be sung again except at antique entertainments, but it had an importance in its day.
Beginning in quadruple time on four flats minor, it renders the first stanza in flowing concords largo affettuoso, and a single bass fugue, Then suddenly shifting to one flat, major, duple time, it executes the second stanza, |Hark! they whisper| ... |What is this, etc.,| in alternate pianissimo and forte phrases; and finally, changing to triple time, sings the third triumphant stanza, andante, through staccato and fortissimo. The shout in the last adagio, on the four final bars, |O Death! O Death!| softening with |where is thy sting?| is quite in the style of old orchestral magnificence.
Since |The Dying Christian| ceased to appear in church music, the poem, for some reason, seems not to have been recognized as a hymn. It is, however, a Christian poem, and a true lyric of hope and consolation, whatever the character of the author or however pagan the original that suggested it.
The most that is now known of Edward Harwood, the composer of the anthem, is that he was an English musician and psalmodist, born near Blackburn, Lancaster Co., 1707, and died about 1787.
|YOUR HARPS, YE TREMBLING SAINTS.|
This hymn of Toplady, -- unlike |A Debtor to Mercy Alone,| and |Inspirer and Hearer of Prayer,| both now little used, -- stirs no controversial feeling by a single line of his aggressive Calvinism. It is simply a song of Christian gratitude and joy.
Your harps, ye trembling saints
Down from the willows take;
Loud to the praise of Love Divine
Bid every string awake.
Though in a foreign land,
We are not far from home,
And nearer to our house above
We every moment come.
* * * * *
Blest is the man, O God,
That stays himself on Thee,
Who waits for Thy salvation, Lord,
Shall Thy salvation see.
|Olmutz| was arranged by Lowell Mason from a Gregorian chant. He set it himself to Toplady's hymn, and it seems the natural music for it. The words are also sometimes written and sung to Jonathan Woodman's |State St.|
Jonathan Call Woodman was born in Newburyport, Mass., July 12, 1813. He was the organist of St. George's Chapel, Flushing L.I. and a teacher, composer and compiler. His Musical Casket was not issued until Dec.1858, but he wrote the tune of |State St.| in August, 1844. It was a contribution to Bradbury's Psalmodist, which was published the same year.
|YE GOLDEN LAMPS OF HEAVEN, FAREWELL.|
Dr. Doddridge's |farewell| is not a note of regret. Unlike Bernard, he appreciates this world while he anticipates the better one, but his contemplation climbs from God's footstool to His throne. His thought is in the last two lines of the second stanza, where he takes leave of the sun --
My soul that springs beyond thy sphere
No more demands thine aid.
But his fancy will find a function for the |golden lamps| even in the glory that swallows up their light --
Ye stars are but the shining dust
Of my divine abode,
The pavement of those heavenly courts
Where I shall dwell with God.
The Father of eternal light
Shall there His beams display,
Nor shall one moment's darkness mix
With that unvaried day.
The hymn has been assigned to |Mt. Auburn,| a composition of George Kingsley, but a far better interpretation -- if not best of all -- is H.K. Oliver's tune of |Merton,| (1847,) older, but written purposely for the words.
|TRIUMPHANT ZION, LIFT THY HEAD.|
This fine and stimulating lyric is Doddridge in another tone. Instead of singing hope to the individual, he sounds a note of encouragement to the church.
Put all thy beauteous garments on,
And let thy excellence be known;
Decked in the robes of righteousness,
The world thy glories shall confess.
* * * * *
God from on high has heard thy prayer;
His hand thy ruins shall repair,
Nor will thy watchful Monarch cease
To guard thee in eternal peace.
The tune, |Anvern,| is one of Mason's charming melodies, full of vigor and cheerful life, and everything can be said of it that is said of the hymn. Duffield compares the hymn and tune to a ring and its jewel.
It is one of the inevitable freaks of taste that puts so choice a strain of psalmody out of fashion. Many younger pieces in the church manuals could be better spared.
|SHRINKING FROM THE COLD HAND OF DEATH.|
This is a hymn of contrast, the dark of recoiling nature making the background of the rainbow. Written by Charles Wesley, it has passed among his forgotten or mostly forgotten productions but is notable for the frequent use of its 3rd stanza by his brother John. John Wesley, in his old age, did not so much shrink from death as from the thought of its too slow approach. His almost constant prayer was, |Lord, let me not live to be useless.| |At every place,| says Belcher, |after giving to his societies what he desired them to consider his last advice, he invariably concluded with the stanza beginning --
|'Oh that, without a lingering groan,
I may the welcome word receive.
My body with my charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live.'|
The anticipation of death itself by both the great evangelists ended like the ending of the hymn --
No anxious doubt, no guilty gloom
Shall daunt whom Jesus' presence cheers;
My Light, my Life, my God is come,
And glory in His face appears.
|FOREVER WITH THE LORD.|
Montgomery had the Ambrosian gift of spiritual song-writing. Whatever may be thought of his more ambitious descriptive or heroic pages of verse, and his long narrative poems, his lyrics and cabinet pieces are gems. The poetry in some exquisite stanzas of his |Grave| is a dream of peace:
There is a calm for those who weep,
A rest for weary mortals found;
They softly lie and sweetly sleep
Low in the ground.
The storms that wreck the winter's sky
No more disturb their deep repose
Than summer evening's latest sigh
That shuts the rose.
But in the poem, |At Home in Heaven,| which we are considering -- with its divine text in I Thess.4:17 -- the Sheffield bard rises to the heights of vision. He wrote it when he was an old man. The contemplation so absorbed him that he could not quit his theme till he had composed twenty-two quatrains. Only four or five -- or at most only seven of them -- are now in general use. Like his |Prayer is the Soul's Sincere Desire,| they have the pith of devotional thought in them, but are less subjective and analytical.
Forever with the Lord!
Amen, so let it be,
Life from the dead is in that word;
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day's march nearer home.
My Father's house on high!
Home of my soul, how near
At times to faith's foreseeing eye
Thy golden gates appear.
I hear at morn and even,
At noon and midnight hour,
The choral harmonies of heaven
Earth's Babel tongues o'erpower.
The last line has been changed to read --
Seraphic music pour,
-- and finally the hymnals have dropped the verse and substituted others. The new line is an improvement in melody but not in rhyme, and, besides, it robs the stanza of its leading thought -- heaven and earth offsetting each other, and heavenly music drowning earthly noise -- a thought that is missed even in the rich cantos of |Jerusalem the Golden.|
Nearly the whole school of good short metre tunes, from |St. Thomas| to |Boylston| have offered their notes to Montgomery's |At Home in Heaven,| but the two most commonly recognized as its property are |Mornington,| named from Lord Mornington, its author, and I.B. Woodbury's familiar harmony, |Forever with the Lord.|
Garret Colley Wellesley, Earl of Mornington, and ancestor of the Duke of Wellington, was born in Dagan, Ireland, July 19, 1735. Remarkable for musical talent when a child, he became a skilled violinist, organ-player and composer in boyhood, with little aid beyond his solitary study and practice. When scarcely twenty-one, the University of Dublin conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Music, and a professorship. He excelled as a composer of glees, but wrote also tunes and anthems for the church, some of which are still extant in the choir books of the Dublin Cathedral Died March 22, 1781.
|HARK! HARK, MY SOUL!|
The Methodist Reformation, while it had found no practical sympathy within the established church, left a deep sense of its reason and purpose in the minds of the more devout Episcopalians, and this feeling, instead of taking form in popular revival methods, prompted them to deeper sincerity and more spiritual fervor in their traditional rites of worship. Many of the next generation inherited this pious ecclesiasticism, and carried their loyalty to the old Christian culture to the extreme of devotion till they saw in the sacraments the highest good of the soul. It was Keble's |Christian Year| and his |Assize Sermon| that began the Tractarian movement at Oxford which brought to the front himself and such men as Henry Newman and Frederick William Faber.
The hymns and sacred poems of these sacramentarian Christians would certify to their earnest piety, even if their lives were unknown.
Faber's hymn |Hark, Hark My Soul,| is welcomed and loved by every Christian sect for its religious spirit and its lyric beauty.
Hark! hark, my soul! angelic songs are swelling
O'er earth's green fields and ocean's wave-beat shore; How sweet the truth those blessed strains are telling Of that new life where sin shall be no more.
Angels of Jesus, angels of light
Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night.
Onward we go, for still we hear them singing
|Come, weary souls, for Jesus bids you come,|
And through the dark, its echoes sweetly ringing,
The music of the gospel leads us home.
Angels of Jesus.
Far, far away, like bells at evening pealing,
The voice of Jesus sounds o'er land and sea,
And laden souls, by thousands meekly stealing,
Kind Shepherd, turn their weary steps to Thee.
Angels of Jesus.
John B. Dykes and Henry Smart -- both masters of hymn-tune construction -- have set this hymn to music. |Vox Angelica| in B flat, the work of the former, is a noble composition for choir or congregation, but |Pilgrim,| the other's interpretation, though not dissimilar in movement and vocal range, has, perhaps, the more sympathetic melody. It is, at least, the favorite in many localities. Some books print the two on adjacent pages as optionals.
Another much-loved hymn of Faber's is --
O Paradise, O Paradise!
Who doth not crave for rest?
Who would not see the happy land
Where they that loved are blest?
Where loyal hearts and true
Stand ever in the light,
All rapture through and through
In God's most holy sight.
O Paradise, O Paradise,
The world is growing old;
Who would not be at rest and free
Where love is never cold.
Where loyal hearts and true.
O Paradise, O Paradise,
I greatly long to see
The special place my dearest Lord,
In love prepares for me.
Where loyal hearts and true.
This aspiration, from the ardent soul of the poet has been interpreted in song by the same two musicians, and by Joseph Barnby -- all with the title |Paradise.| Their similarity of style and near equality of merit have compelled compilers to print at least two of them side by side for the singers' choice. A certain pathos in the strains of Barnby's composition gives it a peculiar charm to many, and in America it is probably the oftenest sung to the words.
Dr. David Breed, speaking of Faber's |unusual| imagination, says, |He got more out of language than any other poet of the English tongue, and used words -- even simple words -- so that they rendered him a service which no other poet ever secured from them.| The above hymns are characteristic to a degree, but the telling simplicity of his style -- almost quaint at times -- is more marked in |There's a Wideness in God's Mercy,| given on p.234.
[Illustration: Horatius Bonar, D.D.]
|BEYOND THE SMILING AND THE WEEPING.|
This song of hope -- one of the most strangely tuneful and rune-like of Dr. Bonar's hymn-poems -- is less frequently sung owing to the peculiarity of its stanza form. But it scarcely needs a staff of notes --
Beyond the smiling and the weeping
I shall be soon;
Beyond the waking and the sleeping,
Beyond the sowing and the reaping
I shall be soon.
Love, rest and home!
Lord, tarry not, but come.
* * * * *
Beyond the parting and the meeting
I shall be soon;
Beyond the farewell and the greeting,
Beyond the pulses' fever-beating
I shall be soon.
Love, rest and home!
Beyond the frost-chain and the fever
I shall be soon;
Beyond the rock-waste and the river
Beyond the ever and the never
I shall be soon.
Love, rest and home!
The wild contrasts and reverses of earthly vicissitude are spoken and felt here in the sequence of words. Perpetual black-and-white through time; then the settled life and untreacherous peace of eternity. Everywhere in the song the note of heavenly hope interrupts the wail of disappointment, and the chorus returns to transport the soul from the land of emotional whirlwinds to unbroken rest.
Mr. Bradbury wrote an admirable tune to this hymn, though the one since composed by Mr. Stebbins has in some localities superseded it in popular favor. Skill in following the accent and unequal rhythms produces a melodious tone-poem, and completes the impression of Bonar's singular but sweet lyric of hope which suggests a chant-choral rather than a regular polyphonic harmony. W.A. Tarbutton and the young composer, Karl Harrington, have set the hymn to music, but the success of their work awaits the public test.
|WE SHALL MEET BEYOND THE RIVER.|
The words were written by Rev. John Atkinson, D.D., in January, 1867, soon after the death of his mother. He had been engaged in revival work and one night in his study, |that song, in substance, seemed,| he says, |to sing itself into my heart.| He said to himself, |I would better write it down, or I shall lose it.|
|There,| he adds, |in the silence of my study, and not far from midnight, I wrote the hymn.|
We shall meet beyond the river
By and by, by and by;
And the darkness will be over
By and by, by and by.
With the toilsome journey done,
And the glorious battle won.
We shall shine forth as the sun
By and by, by and by.
The Rev. John Atkinson was born in Deerfield, N.J. Sept.6, 1835. A clergyman of the Methodist denomination, he is well-known as one of its writers. The Centennial History of American Methodism is his work, and besides the above hymn, he has written and published The Garden of Sorrows, and The Living Way. He died Dec.8, 1897.
The tune to |We Shall Meet,| by Hubert P. Main, composed in 1867, exactly translates the emotional hymn into music. S.J. Vail also wrote music to the words. The hymn, originally six eight-line stanzas, was condensed at his request to its present length and form by Fanny Crosby.
|ONE SWEETLY SOLEMN THOUGHT.|
Phebe Cary, the author of this happy poem, was the younger of the two Cary sisters, Alice and Phebe, names pleasantly remembered in American literature. The praise of one reflects the praise of the other when we are told that Phebe possessed a loving and trustful soul, and her life was an honor to true womanhood and a blessing to the poor. She had to struggle with hardship and poverty in her early years: |I have cried in the street because I was poor,| she said in her prosperous years, |and the poor always seem nearer to me than the rich.|
When reputation came to her as a writer, she removed from her little country home near Cincinnati, O., where she was born, in 1824, and settled in New York City with her sister. She died at Newport, N.Y., July 31, 1871, and her hymn was sung at her funeral. Her remains rest in Greenwood Cemetery.
|One Sweetly Solemn Thought,| was written in 1852, during a visit to one of her friends. She wrote (to her friend's inquiry) years afterwards that it first saw the light |in your own house ... in the little back third-story bedroom, one Sunday after coming from church.| It was a heart experience noted down without literary care or artistic effort, and in its original form was in too irregular measure to be sung. She set little value upon it as a poem, but when shown hesitatingly to inquiring compilers, its intrinsic worth was seen, and various revisions of it were made. The following is one of the best versions -- stanzas one, two and three: --
One sweetly solemn thought
Comes to me o'er and o'er,
I am nearer home to-day,
Than I ever have been before.
Nearer my Father's house,
Where the many mansions be,
Nearer the great white throne,
Nearer the crystal sea.
Nearer the bound of life,
Where we lay our burdens down,
Nearer leaving the cross
Nearer gaining the crown.
The old revival tune of |Dunbar,| with its chorus, |There'll be no more sorrow there,| has been sung to the hymn, but the tone-lyric of Philip Phillips, |Nearer Home,| has made the words its own, and the public are more familiar with it than with any other. It was this air that a young man in a drinking house in Macao, near Hong-Kong, began humming thoughtlessly while his companion was shuffling the cards for a new game. Both were Americans, the man with the cards more than twenty years the elder. Noticing the tune, he threw down the pack. Every word of the hymn had come back to him with the echo of the music.
|Harry, where did you learn that hymn?|
|Why the one you have been singing.|
The young man said he did not know what he had been singing. But when the older one repeated some of the lines, he said they were learned in the Sunday-school.
|Come, Harry,| said the older one, |here's what I've won from you. As for me, as God sees me, I have played my last game, and drank my last bottle. I have misled you, Harry, and I am sorry for it. Give me your hand, my boy, and say that, for old America's sake, if for no other, you will quit this infernal business.|
Col. Russel H. Conwell, of Boston, (now Rev. Dr. Conwell of Philadelphia) who was then visiting China, and was an eye-witness of the scene, says that the reformation was a permanent one for both.
|I WILL SING YOU A SONG OF THAT BEAUTIFUL LAND.|
One day, in the year 1865, Mrs. Ellen M.H. Gates received a letter from Philip Phillips noting the passage in the Pilgrim's Progress which describes the joyful music of heaven when Christian and Hopeful enter on its shining shore beyond the river of death, and asking her to write a hymn in the spirit of the extract, as one of the numbers in his Singing Pilgrim. Mrs. Gates complied -- and the sequel of the hymn she wrote is part of the modern song-history of the church. Mr. Phillips has related how, when he received it, he sat down with his little boy on his knee, read again the passage in Bunyan, then the poem again, and, turning to his organ, pencil in hand, pricked the notes of the melody. |The 'Home of the Soul,'| he says, |seems to have had God's blessing from the beginning, and has been a comfort to many a bereaved soul. Like many loved hymns, it has had a peculiar history, for its simple melody has flowed from the lips of High Churchmen, and has sought to make itself heard above the din of Salvation Army cymbals and drums. It has been sung in prisons and in jailyards, while the poor convict was waiting to be launched into eternity, and on hundreds of funeral occasions. One man writes me that he has led the singing of it at one hundred and twenty funerals. It was sung at my dear boy's funeral, who sat on my knee when I wrote it. It is my prayer that God may continue its solace and comfort. I have books containing the song now printed in seven different languages.|
A writer in the Golden Rule (now the Christian Endeavor World) calls attention to an incident on a night railroad train narrated in the late Benjamin F. Taylor's World on Wheels, in which |this hymn appears as a sort of Traveller's Psalm.| Among the motley collection of passengers, some talkative, some sleepy, some homesick and cross, all tired, sat two plain women who, |would make capital country aunts.... If they were mothers at all they were good ones.| Suddenly in a dull silence, near twelve o'clock, a voice, sweet and flexible, struck up a tune. The singer was one of those women. |She sang on, one after another the good Methodist and Baptist melodies of long ago,| and the growing interest of the passengers became chained attention when she began --
|I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far-away home of the soul,
Where no storms can beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.
O, that home of the soul, in my visions and dreams, Its bright jasper walls I can see;
Till I fancy but thinly the veil intervenes
Between the fair city and me.|
|The car was a wakeful hush long before she had ended; it was as if a beautiful spirit were floating through the air. None that heard will ever forget. Philip Phillips can never bring that 'home of the soul' any nearer to anybody. And never, I think, was quite so sweet a voice lifted in a storm of a November night on the rolling plains of Iowa.|
In an autograph copy of her hymn, sent to the editor, Mrs. Gates changes |harps| to |palms.| Is it an improvement? |Palms| is a word of two meanings.
O how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands
To meet one another again.
|THERE'S A LAND THAT IS FAIRER THAN DAY.|
This belongs rather with |Christian Ballads| than with genuine hymns, but the song has had and still has an uplifting mission among the lowly whom literary perfection and musical nicety could not touch -- and the first two lines, at least, are good hymn-writing. Few of the best sacred lyrics have been sung with purer sentiment and more affectionate fervor than |The Sweet By-and-By.| To any company keyed to sympathy by time, place, and condition, the feeling of the song brings unshed tears.
As nearly as can be ascertained it was in the year 1867 that a man about forty-eight years old, named Webster, entered the office of Dr. Bennett in Elkhorn. Wis., wearing a melancholy look, and was rallied good-naturedly by the doctor for being so blue -- Webster and Bennett were friends, and the doctor was familiar with the other's frequent fits of gloom.
The two men had been working in a sort of partnership, Webster being a musician and Bennett a ready verse-writer, and together they had created and published a number of sheet-music songs. When Webster was in a fit of melancholy, it was the doctor's habit to give him a |dose| of new verses and cure him by putting him to work. Today the treatment turned out to be historic.
|What's the matter now,| was the doctor's greeting when his |patient| came with the tell-tale face.
|O, nothing,| said Webster. |It'll be all right by and by.|
|Why not make a song of the sweet by and by?| rejoined the doctor, cheerfully.
|I don't know,| said Webster, after thinking a second or two. |If you'll make the words, I'll write the music.|
The doctor went to his desk, and in a short time produced three stanzas and a chorus to which his friend soon set the notes of a lilting air, brightening up with enthusiasm as he wrote. Seizing his violin, which he had with him, he played the melody, and in a few minutes more he had filled in the counterpoint and made a complete hymn-tune. By that time two other friends, who could sing, had come in and the quartette tested the music on the spot. Here different accounts divide widely as to the immediate sequel of the new-born song.
A Western paper in telling its story a year or two ago, stated that Webster took the |Sweet By and By| (in sheet-music form), with a batch of other pieces, to Chicago, and that it was the only song of the lot that Root and Cady would not buy; and finally, after he had tried in vain to sell it, Lyon and Healy took it |out of pity,| and paid him twenty dollars. They sold eight or ten copies (the story continued) and stowed it away with dead goods, and it was not till apparently a long time after, when a Sunday-school hymn-book reprinted it, and began to sell rapidly on its account, that the |Sweet By and By| started on its career round the world.
This seems circumstantial enough, and the author of the hymn in his own story of it might have chosen to omit some early particulars, but, untrustworthy as the chronology of mere memory is, he would hardly record immediate popularity of a song that lay in obscurity for years. Dr. Bennett's words are, |I think it was used in public shortly after [its production], for within two weeks children on the street were singing it.|
The explanation may be partly the different method and order of the statements, partly lapses of memory (after thirty years) and partly in collateral facts. The Sunday-school hymn-book was evidently The Signet Ring, which Bennett and Webster were at work upon and into which first went the |Sweet By and By| -- whatever efforts may have been made to dispose of it elsewhere or whatever copyright arrangement could have warranted Mr. Healy in purchasing a song already printed. The Signet Ring did not begin to profit by the song until the next year, after a copy of it appeared in the publishers' circulars, and started a demand; so that the immediate popularity implied in Doctor Bennett's account was limited to the children of Elkhorn village.
The piece had its run, but with no exceptional result as to its hold on the public, until in 1873 Ira D. Sankey took it up as one of his working hymns. Modified from its first form in the |Signet Ring| with pianoforte accompaniment and chorus, it appeared that year in Winnowed Hymns as arranged by Hubert P. Main, and it has so been sung ever since.
Sanford Filmore Bennett, born in 1836, appears to have been a native of the West, or, at least, removed there when a young man. In 1861 he settled in Elkhorn to practice his profession. Died Oct., 1898.
Joseph Philbrick Webster was born in Manchester, N.H. March 22, 1819. He was an active member of the Handel and Haydn Society, and various other musical associations. Removed to Madison, Ind.1851, Racine, Wis.1856, and Elkhorn, Wis., 1857, where he died Jan.18, 1875. His Signet Ring was published in 1868.
There's a land that is fairer than day,
And by faith I can see it afar
For the Father waits over the way
To prepare us a dwelling-place there.
In the sweet by and by
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.
We shall sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious songs of the blest,
And our spirits shall sorrow no more,
Nor sigh for the blessing of rest.
In the sweet by and by, etc.
|SUNSET AND EVENING STAR.|
Was it only a poet's imagination that made Alfred Tennyson approach perhaps nearest of all great Protestants to a sense of the real |Presence,| every time he took the Holy Communion at the altar? Whatever the feeling was, it characterized all his maturer life, so far as its spiritual side was known. His remark to a niece expressed it, while walking with her one day on the seashore, |God is with us now, on this down, just as truly as Jesus was with his two disciples on the way to Emmaus.|
Such a man's faith would make no room for dying terrors.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me,
And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as, moving, seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark,
And may there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark.
For though from out our bourne of time and place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Tennyson lived three years after penning this sublime prayer. But it was his swan-song. Born at Somersby, Lincolnshire, Aug.63 1809, dying at Farringford, Oct.6, 1892, he filled out the measure of a good old age. And his prayer was answered, for his death was serene and dreadless. His unseen Pilot guided him gently |across the bar| -- and then he saw Him.
Joseph Barnby's |Crossing the Bar| has supplied a noble choral to this poem. It will go far to make it an accepted tone in church worship, among the more lyrical strains of verse that sing hope and euthanasia.
|SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS.|
If Tennyson had the mistaken feeling (as Dr. Benson intimates) |that hymns were expected to be commonplace,| it was owing both to his mental breeding and his mental stature. Genius in a colossal frame cannot otherwise than walk in strides. What is technically a hymn he never wrote, but it is significant that as he neared the Shoreless Sea, and looked into the Infinite, his sense of the Divine presence instilled something of the hymn spirit into his last verses.
Between Alfred Tennyson singing trustfully of his Pilot and Fanny Crosby singing |Safe in the Arms of Jesus,| is only the width of the choir. The organ tone and the flute-note breathe the same song. The stately poem and the sweet one, the masculine and the feminine, both have wings, but while the one is lifted in anthem and solemn chant in the great sanctuaries, the other is echoing Isaiah's tender text in prayer meeting and Sunday-school and murmuring it at the humble firesides like a mother's lullaby.
[Footnote 48: Isa.40:11.]
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o'ershaded
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! 'tis the voice of angels
Borne in a song to me
Over the fields of glory,
Over the jasper sea.
Safe in the arms of Jesus (1st four lines rep.).
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world's temptations,
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears,
Only a few more trials,
Only a few more tears.
Safe in the arms of Jesus.
Jesus, my heart's dear refuge
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages
Ever my trust shall be,
Here let me with patience,
Wait till the night is o'er,
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the Golden Shore.
Safe in the arms of Jesus.
-- Composed 1868.
Those who have characterized the Gospel Hymns as |sensational| have always been obliged to except this modest lyric of Christian peace and its sweet and natural musical supplement by Dr. W.H. Doane. No hurried and high-pitched chorus disturbs the quiet beauty of the hymn, a simple da capo being its only refrain. |Safe in the Arms of Jesus| sang itself into public favor with the pulses of hymn and tune beating together.